What is The PE Exam? Everything You Need to Know

What is the PE Exam

If you’re wondering what the PE Exam is and other details about it, you’re in the right place. I have taken the PE Exam twice and am now a licensed Professional Engineer, so I can tell you all about it.

The PE Exam, or Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam, is the final exam that engineers must take to get a Professional Engineer (PE) license. The PE Exam is an 8 to 8.5-hour exam and includes 80 to 85 questions. It costs $375 to register for and is a computer-based and closed-book exam.

In other words, if you wanted to become a licensed Professional Engineer like me, you would need to take the PE Exam as part of the licensing process. You usually take the PE Exam after getting the other requirements, which usually include a 4-year engineering degree, passing the FE Exam, and getting 4 years of engineering experience.

When you pass the PE Exam you can then apply to get your PE license in your individual state as long as you meet the other requirements. Passing the PE Exam doesn’t mean you are automatically a Professional Engineer, you must apply for and receive your license from your state engineering board.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most commonly asked questions and details of the PE Exam to learn more!

How Long is the PE Exam?

You will need to answer 80 or 85 questions on the PE Exam, depending on which version of the PE Exam you are taking. If your version is 80 questions, you’ll have 8 hours to complete the entire thing, with a 50-minute lunch break between the two 4-hour sessions. And if your version is 85 questions you’ll get 8.5 hours, also with a lunch break.

There are 15 different types of PE Exams, including:

  • Civil
  • Mechanical
  • Chemical
  • Power
  • Environmental
  • Petroleum
  • Nuclear
  • Fire Protection
  • Industrial & Systems
  • Agricultural & Biological
  • Architectural
  • Computer
  • Electronics, Controls, & Communications
  • Mining & Mineral Processes
  • Naval Architecture & Marine

To see a table of the length of time for each PE Exam and more details on how long the PE Exam takes, click on this link.

How Much Does the PE Exam Cost?

You will need to pay $375 to the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) to register for the PE Exam, but there are other costs involved as well, including:

There’s a lot to consider when trying to figure out the total cost of the PE Exam. I broke it down for you, including everything I paid for as part of my preparation for the test and fees to take it, right here.

When Should You Take The PE Exam?

Before you register for the PE Exam, you’ll need to consider where you are on the timeline of becoming a licensed Professional Engineer. You’ll also need to know your individual state’s requirements, as some states require you to fill out an application before you can take the PE Exam. You can check those requirements right here.

Usually, it’s best to wait to take the PE Exam until you’ve completed your 4-year engineering degree and passed the FE Exam. 

In most cases, you cannot take the PE Exam without passing the FE Exam anyway. Plus, since you need almost everything you learn in your degree to pass the FE Exam, you’ll probably want to wait to do that until after you graduate.

Most engineers I know take the PE Exam after they’ve graduated, passed the FE Exam, and spent some time working in the field. 

I waited until I had almost completed my 4 years of required experience to become licensed. This works well also because you can just apply for your license soon after passing.

How to Register For the PE Exam

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, or NCEES for short, is the organization that develops, administers, and scores the exams, and is where you need to go to register for the PE Exam.

The first step to register is to create an account at this link. If you’re doing this for the first time, it’s likely that you haven’t taken the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam yet, which you’ll need to take before attempting the PE Exam. 

To register for either the FE Exam or PE Exam, log in to your NCEES account or create one if you don’t have one yet. Don’t use a work or school email to register as this account will stay with you forever but those emails may not.

Once you’re logged into your account, you’ll see a section titled “Common Tasks” on the right side. The first option is “Register for an exam” and you want to click on it. You’ll then select your exam type, follow the instructions, pay the fee, and then you’ll be registered for your exam!

For a more in-depth guide on registering for the PE or FE Exams, click here.

Wrapping Up

The PE Exam is a long and difficult test that’s required to pass if you want to become a licensed Professional Engineer. I’ve passed it and become a licensed Professional Engineer myself and it’s 100% worth every bit of all the hard work it takes.

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